Despite a strong first half performance at Nottingham Trent’s Clifton Campus, the University of Nottingham failed to maintain their early advantage and eventually succumbed to a 26-13 defeat in this Sunday’s 2014 Varsity American Football matchup.
The two rival sides arrived for the rearranged fixture to find horrendous weather conditions for football with a fierce wind downfield restricting the game plan of both teams. The smattering of fans from each university who braved the chill did not have the advantage of charging at one another to keep the cold at bay.
Once UoN kicked off in to the wind, a few things quickly became apparent. Neither side took this fixture lightly, with big defensive plays becoming standard throughout the first quarter. Trent struggled to maintain discipline and order in their offensive drives while Uni’s D was well-organised. Time and again the pink players were penalised for false starts – a trend that ran through the entire first half and totalled 95 penalty yards by half-time, which obviously infuriated the Trent coaching staff who took a ‘no excuses’ attitude to their players on the sidelines in front of the fans.
Trent struggled to maintain discipline and totalled 95 penalty yards by half-time while Uni’s D was well-organised.
While most of Trent’s penalties came from false starts, their discipline broke down again midway through the first quarter to gift Uni a golden scoring opportunity, with one Trent player cited for overly enthusiastic taunting. Following a botched punt on a Trent fourth down, Uni made light work of running the ball in from the 7 yard line and an easy conversion for the extra point, despite the wind, gave Uni a 7-0 advantage.
In the second quarter Trent quarterback Danny Miller showed more signs of real class, reading the game well and not being afraid to put the ball in the air, which is to be expected from the American college line-backer-turned-quarterback. When the Uni defence jammed up Miller’s options downfield he was more than happy to carry the ball himself and repeatedly took off straight through the heart of the field, brushing off tackles to drag Trent towards the first down marker. Uni’s response was comprehensive. They went after the quarterback and brought him down hard – prompting Trent to call the first time-out of the game.
Trent’s American college line-backer-turned-quarterback Danny Miller showed signs of real class, reading the game well and not being afraid to put the ball in the air.
After the time-out Uni resumed with a drive starting on their own 25 yard line but failed to gain yardage on the first three downs. With the punting unit out on the field, Uni’s game was about to take a turn for the worse as the Uni coaching staff called for an unorthodox fake punt play. The attempt to outsmart Trent’s defence was a complete bust though and Uni surrendered the ball comfortably inside the scoring zone. Miller took over and promptly punched the ball home with a simple pass to the outside, but failed to complete the two-point conversion before half-time leaving the score at 7-6 in Uni’s favour.
In the second half, Trent came out looking the stronger side almost immediately. Although they were still suffering with discipline problems on offence, they managed to continue shutting down the Uni running game. Both defences worked hard and played strong football throughout the third quarter, restricting each other to short gains for the most part. With lessons learned from the earlier punt fake, Uni elected to actually kick the football this time but were restricted by the wind and Trent resumed 44 yards from the goal line. From there it fell to Miller again to lead the Trent offence and, after connecting on a post route with a tight spiral, he worked the two point conversion to bring the score to 7-14. Trent’s advantage continued from here on in, restricting Uni to another three-and-out drive to recover the ball once again.
By the end of the third quarter Trent had extended their lead with a rush into the end-zone and benefitted from a two-score cushion. The fourth quarter rolled on and with 12 minutes to go Uni looked ready for the game to finish. Trent protected their lead well and offered a solid defence to almost everything Uni offered, forcing another fourth-down attempt from the visiting side. This time Uni once again returned to the fake punt and once again failed to convert in a dangerous area of the field. With the two minute warning looming, Miller kept the pressure on and led his offensive team in to the redzone. The standout player further proved his credentials by taking the ball home himself to add another 6 points to Trent’s total. After their backup QB failed to convert for two, the score stood at 7-26 .
To the Uni team’s credit, they came back on to the field knowing that saving the game was almost impossible and completed a series of slick short passes to move up the field. The final play of the game, though a consolation, saw a magnificent Hail Mary touchdown pass that covered 60 yards to bring about the final score: 13-26 to Nottingham Trent, giving them a 2-1 advantage in this year’s Varsity Series. Uni have the opportunity to square the series once again on February 24th when the basketball sides tip off at the Capital FM Arena.
James Hirst & John Mastrini
21-year-old Ameri-Czech student of Politics & Economics at the University of Nottingham. Sports Editor @impactmagazine. FFC worshipper. European.